Columbia County vs. Florida
Crown Workforce Board: Here we go again?
Columbia County, FL (Posted August 22, 2011 11:45 pm)
Lake City Attorney, Bill Haley, holds up documents that no one had seen before the meeting.
Columbia County, after years of wrangling with the high performing Region 7 Florida Crown Workforce Board, appeared to have finally made peace with the other three counties in the four county Workforce Board region. That was until the August 18th County Commission meeting, when the interlocal agreement, which had been approved weeks ago by the three other counties in the region, made a sudden 12th hour appearance for approval on the County's meeting agenda.
Longtime Lake City attorney, Bill Haley, was the 12th hour spokesperson for Florida Crown. As he explained to the County Commission that he was not the regular attorney that represented Florida Crown, he handed a packet of confusing information to the commissioners.
Attorney Haley explained that the other three counties in the region (Dixie, Gilchrist, Union) had already approved the four County interlocal agreement. He attempted to explain the changes between the last agreement in 2010 and the one now before the Board for approval. At the conclusion of his nine minute presentation, he asked if there were any questions.
Commission Chair Jody DuPree responded, "This is the first time I've seen any of this stuff."
Commissioner Ronald Williams, the County's representative on the Florida Crown Consortium, the Board that represents all four counties, told the County Commission that he thought the Consortium was now more transparent and he gets answers to the questions that he asks.
Mail in ballots – The majority wins
Long time Commissioner, Ronald Williams makes a point from behind the shrub.
Due to the largeness of the rural four county region, Workforce Board appointments are voted on using mail-in ballots. Commissioner Williams explained that he had no issues with the mail-in ballots.
Commissioner Bailey took issue with the mail-in ballots, explaining that if he was on the losing side, he would not be able to try and convince the other members to change their votes.
Commissioner Williams said the process is simple, "The majority wins."
Information not timely available
Commissioner Stephen Bailey listens to Commissioner Williams.
A conversation ensued, in which the old interlocal and the proposed interlocal were confused by Commissioner Bailey. The County staff failed to make the information available to both the commissioners and the public with enough time for it to be examined, studied and organized.
When Commissioner Bailey, referring to legislative acts mentioned in the agreement, asked Attorney Haley if the legislation had changed, Mr. Haley responded, "I think you'll find in these kinds of acts that they're like the ocean, they are constantly changing."
Commissioner Bailey explained that Columbia County was going to pull out of the workforce region [three years ago] because, "We could not get where we needed to go."
Commissioner Bailey continued, "My concern tonight is that we are going backwards."
Had he had time to read it, most of what Commissioner Bailey was asking for was actually in the newly proposed agreement.
Commissioner Bailey said, "I would like to be able to dig into this a little bit more, because there is more information that's been presented to me tonight -- that I have not seen and was not aware of."
Commissioner Williams told the Board, "Just because the agreement was approved by the other counties does not mean that we have to rush into it and we want to make sure that the concerns of Commissioner Bailey is [are] put to rest."
Attorney Haley opined on the non approval of the interlocal agreement, "Columbia County is not the tail. We're the dog, just like each one of the other counties are the dog. We don't expect them to follow what we do and we don't expect us to follow what they do, but we have a problem -- then we can't be certified."
Commissioner Bailey: "The other problem is that we're at the last meeting before we need to sign it and that's pretty typical that we get here at the ninth hour."
Attorney Haley: "I don't know what happened. I understand that this was sent to the County Commission sometime before."
County Manager Williams: (unintelligible – did not use microphone)
Attorney Haley: "This is not new."
Commissioner Williams: "I got mine a month and a half ago."
Commissioner DuPree: "I got mine today. I'm a little bit handicapped because I've had to read and listen at the same time."
Commissioner's Frisina and DePratter added nothing to the conversation.
The Executive Director of Florida Crown, "JC" John Chastain, told the Observer that he was not notified that the interlocal agreement was being placed on the August 18th agenda until 11:20 the morning of the meeting.
Mr. Chastain said he has resubmitted the interlocal with the changes Commissioner Bailey referenced during the County Commission meeting.
There are 24 regional workforce boards in Florida. This is the only region that has had issues of this magnitude with the interlocal agreement among its member counties and may very well be the only County in the country that continually has these sorts of problems with its sister Consortium members.
It's business as usual in Columbia County.